Nuts & Bolts—Keeping Cool And Clean Efficiently

AsianScientist (Nov. 5, 2020) – Every aspect of daily life inevitably leaves an impact on the environment: heating or cooling our indoor spaces, throwing out the trash or running the dishwasher all consume energy. But what if the built environment itself—with the help of smarter design—could help mitigate your negative impact on the planet? This is the dream of green buildings.

As the world continues to experience extreme weather disturbances due to climate change, green buildings have become a must for cities that wish to continue urban development in an ethical and sustainable manner. Singapore, which has made green buildings mandatory since 2008, has been hailed as a model of green building in Asia, harnessing the newest technologies to expand its green footprint.

Nonetheless, Singapore faces a significant challenge in its journey to sustainability: as an island on the equator, building cooling costs are considerable. Thankfully, energy-saving innovations in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, cooling and air purification are solutions the island city is adopting to overcome that challenge.

Controlling indoor air quality at the click of a button

Globally, buildings account for nearly 20% of energy emissions, higher than the emissions produced by livestock and crop cultivation. A way to lower this number is through efficient HVAC systems that can quickly respond to changes without sacrificing the comfort of a building’s inhabitants.

To help bring HVAC systems up to speed with the fourth industrial revolution, a technology provider has developed a scalable, flexible and cost-efficient way to save energy, especially in large buildings that have more than 500 zones. The system does this through a patented token-based HVAC scheduling strategy coupled with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The IoT infrastructure allows the system to gather real-time data and respond to changes in the building, such as levels of carbon dioxide emitted by occupants.

The technology features a highly flexible plug-and-play implementation, which means it can be applied to a building without the need for major retrofitting of existing HVAC controllers and data acquisition systems. Old buildings can use the technology to upgrade older HVAC systems, allowing a building owner to remotely monitor the HVAC status via a mobile interface. On the other hand, new buildings can benefit from this technology as it can complement other more costly energy-saving technologies.

Keeping cool without water

As the world becomes more and more connected, we often forget that the internet has a physical component existing in the real world. Data centers and telecommunication sites are crucial infrastructures in the digital landscape — but they are also energy-intensive buildings, estimated to account for about 1% of worldwide electricity use. Cooling systems contribute the greatest share of this electricity use, as these sites need to be cooled around the clock between 24-28°C.

Existing methods typically use water for cooling, changing the temperature of the water to store energy. However, this is an inefficient process, as water has a low specific heat capacity. Instead, a technology provider has developed a cooling technology using phase-change materials (PCMs) which store thermal energy through melting and solidification. These PCMs allow for more concentrated storage of thermal energy as the energy required to change their state (latent heat energy) is much higher than what is required to raise its temperature (specific heat).

For data centers and telecommunication sites, this technology can increase energy efficiency by up to 40% and reduce storage size by 60%, as compared to water storage solutions. The technology has been proven with a working pilot to provide cooling at a telecommunications site in Hungary, which achieved 54% energy savings with four years’ worth of return on investment.

Utilizing odorless microorganisms for air purification

Keeping the indoor environment cool is one challenge, but keeping it clean on top of that adds another layer of complexity. HVAC systems can harbor odor-causing bacteria or mold, which could also cause diseases. While anti-bacterial and anti-odor solutions are available, they may not act on all species of microorganisms currently sitting on the evaporator core of your air conditioner.

A technology provider has thus developed an eco-friendly air purification technology which uses odorless microorganisms to fight odor-causing microorganisms. The provider screened various species and strains of odorless microorganisms, and confirmed that when a biofilm is formed using a combination of microorganisms from the Methylobacterium species, it can fight the growth of odor-causing microorganisms. It thereby reduces offensive odors and in turn, enhances indoor air quality.

The odorless bacteria biofilm lasts for up to a year and can be applied through spray coating. This can be applied to HVAC systems in both residential and commercial buildings, as well as in automobiles, on filters and in wastewater treatment units.
Asian Scientist Magazine is a media partner of Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI) Singapore.


Copyright: IPI Singapore. Read the original article here.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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Coronavirus: Variant mutation lets it copy itself more efficiently

Senior health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that a new mutation of coronavirus could spread easily across America. 

It comes as infections soar across eight states, with more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 671 deaths, bringing the confirmed total to 2.74 million cases and 128,742 deaths. 

A small change to a variant of the novel coronavirus has helped it better copy itself but not make it more deadly, a new study suggests.

Researchers found there were two strains of the virus circulating when it reached the US: the original D614 and a mutation, G614. 

This mutation is not a deadlier version of the coronavirus but it does help the virus copy itself better, which results in a higher viral load in patients. 

Senior health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci (pictured) has warned that a new mutation of coronavirus could spread easily across America. This mutation is not a deadlier version of the coronavirus but it does help the virus copy itself better, which results in a higher viral load in patients

Researchers found the most dominant strain of the virus by mid-March was a mutation of the original variant called G614 (right, in blue), not the original virus D614 (left, in green)

Researchers found the most dominant strain of the virus by mid-March was a mutation of the original variant called G614 (right, in blue), not the original virus D614 (left, in green)

Dr Erica Ollmann Saphire, a professor of at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California, says viruses often mutate to ‘escape’ antibodies created by our immune systems.

This phenomenon of viruses making enough changes to ‘drift’ away from the original virus is known as antigenic drift.

It’s one reason why new flu shots are needed every fall, because the dominant strain is often so different from the one the year before.  

Health experts say coronavirus mutates at a slower rate than several other respiratory viruses, particularly the the flu. 

The lab-based research, published in the journal Cell, suggests this current mutation is more transmissible between people in the real world compared to the previous iteration, but this hasn’t yet been proven. 

‘I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads,’ Anthony Fauci, the United States’s top infectious disease specialist, who wasn’t involved in the research, commented to Journal of the American Medical Association.

‘We don’t have a connection to whether an individual does worse with this or not. It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible, but this is still at the stage of trying to confirm that,’ he added. 

‘But some very good viral phylogeneticists are working on that right now, and it does look like a particular mutation may make the virus more transmissible.’ 

For the study, the team tracked the spread of both the G and D viruses. 

The G strain is not a deadlier version, but it allows the virus to copy itself more easily and create higher viral loads in patients. Pictured: Paula Johnson, a nurse, administers a deep suction tube into the lungs of a coronavirus patient, in the ICU of Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

The G strain is not a deadlier version, but it allows the virus to copy itself more easily and create higher viral loads in patients. Pictured: Paula Johnson, a nurse, administers a deep suction tube into the lungs of a coronavirus patient, in the ICU of Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

They found that while both the D virus and the G virus spread widely around the world, the G strain was more dominant by mid-March. 

Next, researchers analyzed at antibody samples from six San Diego residents who had previously been infected with COVID-19.

They wanted to see if which variant would be harder to neutralize.

Results showed the new G virus was just as well neutralized – and sometimes even better – as the original D virus. 

This means the immune system doesn’t need to produce more or better-acting antibodies against the G virus, despite it being better at spreading. 

‘These findings suggest that the newer form of the virus may be even more readily transmitted than the original form,’ said senior author Dr Bette Korber, a fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.     

‘Whether or not that conclusion is ultimately confirmed, it highlights the value of what were already good ideas: to wear masks and to maintain social distancing.’ 

Saphire says the virus ‘wants’ to be transmissible, which is why many get a mild cases, or have no symptoms at all.

‘A virus that kills its host rapidly doesn’t go as far–think of cases of Ebola,’ she said.

‘A virus that lets its host go about their business will disseminate better – like with the common cold.’ 

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How to iron your shirts faster and more efficiently

It also helps retain a professional habit that has helped create a sense of structure to my day, which for the past three months has evolved around whether I’ll work from on the couch or in the kitchen. (And when my gym closed down, it was the only iron I was able to lift for weeks.)

It’s also because I actually enjoy the process of taking care of my clothes. Having a pile of T-shirts so neatly stacked you could riffle shuffle them? Give me that instant dopamine hit.

"I'm literally smoothing over the wrinkles of my life."

“I’m literally smoothing over the wrinkles of my life.”Credit:John Shakespeare

My partner, however, went down the other route. Where I made the conscious effort to make sure I was dressed and ready for a hard day’s work at the kitchen table, they embraced tracksuits, moccasins and old T-shirts. Gone was the planning a day’s outfit the night before and making sure every shirt and pair of trousers was crisp enough to crack.

Teresa Bisoglio, owner of Impressive Ironing, an ironing delivery service based out of Sydney’s leafy suburb of Annandale, says that lockdown definitely had an impact on her business. “When people started working from home, they weren’t needing to get their business shirts ironed,” says Bisoglio.

“People quickly adapted to wearing T-shirts and more casual clothes while forced to stay home.”

Putting the question out into the universe, friends and colleagues say they’ve had bigger things to think about than making sure their clothes aren’t creased. One even confessed that her husband has never ironed once since she’s known him. Another person said they had perfected the art of hanging their clothes so they “straightened themselves out. But all admitted they had definitely eased up on the traditional chore if not quit doing it altogether.


Maybe it’s a generational thing. Along with diamonds, traditional marriage, big houses and even sex, Millennials have been accused of killing the practice of ironing. A root of this accusation has been our role in the casualisation of clothing worn in the workplace. Led by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Co in Silicon Valley, T-shirts and hoodies have slowly replaced collared shirts and blazers in some workplaces.

The rise and fall of so-called “crease-free” fabrics may have also had a role to play in the slow decline of ironing skills. However, the effectiveness of these materials has been questioned by the experts.

“They’re not crease-free,” Bisoglio says. “I’ve seen first-hand that they crease. I get them all the time from people who need them ironed.”

With a return to work now looming on the horizon, ironed clothes might be making their way back onto your menu of daily habits. To get you back into the swing of it, there are some simple ways to make the job easier.

An easy guide to better ironing

  1. Hang your shirt up immediately after washing – this will help straighten out the fabric and make it easier to iron.
  2. Better yet, iron your most important clothes immediately after washing while they’re still damp.
  3. Don’t be shy with the steam function on your iron. This will help soften the fibres of the shirt.
  4. Start with the edges – cuffs, collars – and work your way in. 

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Remote hiring: How to hire new talent safely and efficiently

Tips include incorporating identity verification into the hiring process and communicating the corporate culture.

There’s a new normal for the way we work and the way we conduct business, and that is extending to how people are being hired for jobs. Despite the pandemic and high unemployment rates, the interviewing and hiring process is still underway remotely.

“I do expect that hiring will begin to ramp up as the world starts to recover and emerges from the crisis, said Ken Schnee, a general manager at background screening company Sterling. With social distancing orders still in place, the safest way to ramp up hiring is to do so remotely, and it can still be done safely and efficiently, he said. It’s just as important to maintain a strong candidate experience during the remote hiring process.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

“Companies can still interview candidates just as seamlessly in a remote context, thanks to advanced technologies that are now at the forefront of the hiring process,” Schnee said. “The question becomes, how can we give a robust view of the applicant and drive efficiency in the hiring process, while ensuring that there is trust about their identity and background.”

Background checks can be efficient, quick, and easy to navigate for both employers and candidates by integrating verified candidate data into a streamlined workflow, thanks to video conferencing, he said.

“Prior to COVID-19 and the remote workforce, I had reservations about the effectiveness of video interviewing but had used it from time to time when traveling or unable to meet in the office,” Schnee said. “However, our shared experiences during this crisis have made us more adept at conducting video meetings and interviews, allowing us to pick up on those non-verbal cues that we look for during in-person interviews.”

Tips for hiring remotely

With the utilization of virtual interviews, companies should seek to streamline the hiring process among hiring managers, HR departments, and the candidate, he said. “From a candidate perspective, I believe that companies should emphasize a thoughtful interview process–one that allows hiring managers and coworkers to genuinely get to know the candidate. These interviews can be designed to demonstrate company culture as well as engage with teammates.”

SEE: How to prepare for a permanent remote workforce (TechRepublic)

Companies should take steps to build trust into the process, Schnee said. “Incorporate identity verification into the recruiting and interview process early on so that you truly know who you’re interviewing. And as you hone in on your selected candidate, run a thorough background check so that you feel secure about the person you’re introducing into your organization, and to your colleagues and customers.”

Between implementing these steps and utilizing the right technology and the right engagement strategy, virtual hiring can be as effective as in-office hiring, Schnee said.

“In addition, hiring managers and HR professionals should have the ability to manage cases as well as launch adverse action and individual state law compliance notices, while ensuring data protection and privacy across the organization, Schnee said. “These efficiencies are crucial to remaining compliant and providing a good candidate experience, while helping employers make smart, informed hiring decisions on a foundation of trust and safety.” 

Remote hiring challenges to watch out for

For some time, the HR industry has focused on creating an experience for users and candidates alike that utilizes both software-as-a-service (SAAS) and mobile-first. This focus has allowed companies to serve a mobile workforce and create a hiring process regardless of location, Schnee said.

“Through most applications, candidates can complete their entire onboarding process from a mobile phone, and users can access HR platforms via the internet from anywhere in the world. However, with all of these advanced technologies, complexities still arise in identity verification, workplace culture, and streamlining technology.”

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

One of the most considerable challenges in remote hiring is virtually portraying and communicating company culture, according to Schnee. Additionally, with a lack of face-to-face interactions, hiring managers could struggle to see if the applicant is a good fit culturally, he said. In most cases, the new hire will be interacting with other employees, customers, partners, and the community.

So when speaking to a candidate, the interviewer needs to clearly communicate brand values and how to achieve these values remotely, he advised. “You can ask yourself, can this candidate interact with teammates and establish thoughtful communications? Does your candidate believe in your mission and goals?”

From a candidate perspective, hiring in-person allows applicants to see how the company presents itself, allowing the culture to shine. Many candidates choose to work at a company for this reason. In a study by Glassdoor, 56% of respondents said that company culture is more important than salary for job satisfaction.

Hiring managers must find ways in the interview process to assimilate the applicant into the company culture. “You can design the interview process to get virtual face time with the entire team,” Schnee suggested. “Managers can also invite the candidate to a virtual social event to see if there is a mutual cultural fit.”

Identity verification is extra important when hiring remote workers

In remote hiring, HR professionals need something to replace the comfort level that they would typically get with face-to-face interactions. “I have found that proper identity verifications and thorough background screenings are vital in hiring remotely,” he said. Identity verification is critical, and Sterling recommends doing this early in the process, Schnee said. A candidate can use their mobile phone and government-issued ID in conjunction with intelligent back-end artificial intelligence (AI) services to verify identity, he said.

“These technologies can help build trust into the process,” Schnee said, “while thorough background checks create a sense of security that you are choosing the right person to join your organization, interact with your employees and customers, and represent your brand.”

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Image: Ivan-balvan, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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